Straight off the Shelf: To My Beloveds: Letters on Faith, Race, Loss, and Radical Hope by Jennifer Bailey

“For them, [radical] hope was and is not the same thing as optimism. It is not a feeling nor a desired future state that is the substance of our longings. Hope is the everyday practice of believing that the material conditions of the world can be better and that we have the capacity to bring about that change in the here and now.” 

For this next blog in the “Straight off the Shelf” series, I have selected a new book from our religion section entitled To My Beloveds: Letters on Faith, Race, Loss, and Radical Hope by Jennifer Bailey. Without further ado, let’s learn a bit more about the author and her first book.

Reverend Jennifer Bailey is an ordained minister and public theologian, as well as a renowned social activist who studies and speaks on the intersection of religion and public life. On top of dedicating many years to working in nonprofit organizations, she has also helped found two major institutions: (1) the Faith Matters Network, a womanist-led organization helping to provide spiritual resources to community organizers, faith leaders, and activists; and (2) the People’s Supper, which hosts thousands of dinners across the country in an effort of bringing people together to engage in constructive conversations about important issues. Additionally, Bailey has been named one of the 15 Faith Leaders to Watch by the Center for American Progress and is an Ashoka Fellow, Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellow, Aspen Ideas Scholar, On Being Fellow, and Truman Scholar.

In her debut book, Bailey presents her readers with an epistolary work exploring how hope can be found in the face of racial and social injustice, down the avenues of grief and loss, and when the “cold and slow creep of hopelessness” enters into your thoughts and mind. From the letter entitled “As She Lay Dying” written to a motherless child, to “Who Will Take Care of My Baby?” written to those contemplating suicide, to “You are Beautiful. You are Brave” to a mother with a child in her belly, this book touches on the ways in which grief, loss, and despair can be “composted” into hope, courage, and purpose through activism and leadership work. Throughout these “love letters,” Bailey touches on the three major pillars comprising the foundation of radical hope:

  • Memory as an antidote to death
  • Imagination as a pathway to resurrection
  • Living as a testament to the possibility of the present

Drawing from both scripture and the powerful words of Toni Morrison, Bailey gives her “beloved” readers the means to find radical hope in their lives, even in the midst of life’s greatest struggles, pains, and heartaches.

I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about this new title! If it piqued your interest and/or you would like to read more about spiritual activism, here are some similar books in our library collection:

Do Better: Spiritual Activism for Fighting and Healing from White Supremacy by Rachel Ricketts

Written by spiritual activist and attorney Rachel Ricketts, this book considers the intersection of spiritual activism with racial justice and white supremacy and guides readers through how they can engage in this kind of advocacy. Here is a brief description from the publisher:

“Do Better is a revolutionary offering that addresses racial justice from a comprehensive, intersectional, and spirit-based perspective. This actionable guidebook illustrates how to engage in the heart-centered and mindfulness-based practices that will help us all fight white supremacy from the inside out, in our personal lives and communities alike. It is a loving and assertive call to do the deep—and often uncomfortable—inner work that precipitates much-needed external and global change.”

Reparations: A Christian Call for Repentance and Repair by Duke Kwon and Gregory Thompson

Written by an evangelical pastor and the executive director of Voices Underground, an organization dedicated to preserving the historical truth of America’s racial history, this title considers how white churches can and should respond to racial injustice, as well as how reparations can start being made. Here is a brief description provided by the publisher:

“A compelling theological and historical case for the American Christian church’s responsibility to repair its racial rift with Black brothers and sisters. Kwon and Thompson examine attitudes of white supremacy, bring to bear the Bible’s teachings on repentance and restitution, and present concrete and creative ways to make reparation at the local level.”

White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity by Robert P. Jones

Author of The End of White Christian America, Robert P. Jones takes a deep look at the manifestations of white supremacy throughout the history of several sects within the Christian church and considers their complicity in racial injustice. Here is a brief description provided by the publisher:

“As the nation grapples with demographic changes and the legacy of racism in America, Christianity’s role as a cornerstone of white supremacy has been largely overlooked. But white Christians from evangelicals in the South to mainline Protestants in the Midwest and Catholics in the Northeast have not just been complacent or complicit; rather, as the dominant cultural power, they have constructed and sustained a project of protecting white supremacy and opposing black equality that has framed the entire American story.

With his family’s 1815 Bible in one hand and contemporary public opinion surveys by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) in the other, Robert P. Jones delivers a groundbreaking analysis of the repressed history of the symbiotic relationship between Christianity and white supremacy. White Too Long demonstrates how deeply racist attitudes have become embedded in the DNA of white Christian identity over time and calls for an honest reckoning with a complicated, painful, and even shameful past. Jones challenges white Christians to acknowledge that public apologies are not enough accepting responsibility for the past requires work toward repair in the present.

White Too Long is not an appeal to altruism. Drawing on lessons gleaned from case studies of communities beginning to face these challenges, Jones argues that contemporary white Christians must confront these unsettling truths because this is the only way to salvage the integrity of their faith and their own identities. More broadly, it is no exaggeration to say that not just the future of white Christianity but the outcome of the American experiment is at stake.”

For Small Creatures Such As We by Sasha Sagan

We all deserve holidays, celebrations, and traditions. We all need to mark time. We all need community. We all need to bid hello and goodbye to our loved ones… All our best rituals are a kind of performance about what we need or want most.

Sasha Sagan is the daughter of renowned cosmologist Carl Sagan and writer Ann Druyan, which gave her a uniquely scientific upbringing. Her parents focused on teaching her the wonders of the universe and the powers of critical thinking and the scientific method. When she became a parent, Sagan and her partner had to decide what philosophies and beliefs they wanted to teach their own child, and the result of that decision is her book For Small Creatures Such As We.

Sasha Sagan is presenting a secular worldview,  but is not hostile to religious perspectives. She expresses a warm curiosity and appreciation for the history of religious traditions around the world, and seeks to capture the spirit of religious rituals and festivals in her own life. Accordingly, she focuses each chapter on an aspect of life which has given rise to rituals in different religions: birth, coming-of-age, the changing of seasons, marriage, death, and more. She outlines how different traditions have celebrated these events, and offers meditations on their meaning alongside potential adaptations for secular or personal rituals. At its core, though, Sagan is urging us to really feel and celebrate the magic of being alive, however it works for us as individuals.

I enjoyed this book for the poetic descriptions of what living is, and I was moved by how honestly she talked about loving, losing, and grieving her father. I also thought she gave meaningful perspective on a lot of traditions and rituals that run through our lives. I came away feeling enlightened about the traditions that have shaped my life, and empowered to craft rituals that would add meaning to my own marking of time.

No matter your belief system, I think if you’re looking for a meditative read on how the sacred meets the everyday, there’s something in this book for you.

New Religion Titles at Eastern

Looking for a new religious title to read? Here are some books that hit the shelves at our Eastern Branch in January, February, and March. If any of these titles interest you, you can use the links below to place a hold in our catalog, or you can always give us a call to put one on hold for you. The following descriptions were provided by the publisher.

Centered: Trading Your Plans for a Life that Matters by Jason Brown 

This riveting story of a top-earning NFL center and his family who walked away from it all to follow God’s call to alleviate hunger as farmers–a life they knew absolutely nothing about–illustrates the sacrifice and ultimate reward of obedience to our heavenly Father even when it doesn’t make earthly sense.

NFL lineman Jason Brown had everything he could ever want. He was the highest-paid center in the game, lived a life of luxury, and was cheered on by millions of people every week. Then, in 2012, Jason heard a call from God that changed everything. Jason turned his back on an incredibly successful career in football to pursue a new dream: ending hunger. But through third-party mismanagement and bad luck, Jason lost most of his savings from the NFL–the same money he’d planned to use to start his new career. He desperately needed the miracle that soon came.

Today, Jason and his family run First Fruits Farms in Louisburg, North Carolina, a state where one in four children don’t know where their next meal will come from. Since 2014, the Browns have donated more than 1.6 million servings of fresh produce to their community. Their motto: Never stop giving. Never stop loving. Never stop growing.

With powerful and deeply personal insight, Centered is an inspiration to embrace the joy of following where God leads–no matter how crazy it sounds.

Crazy Happy: Nine Surprising Ways to Live the Truly Beautiful Life by Daniel Fusco

Is it crazy to want a happy life? The host of Jesus Is Real Radio and Hillsong Channel’s Real with Daniel Fusco unlocks the happiness we long for in the most famous teachings of Jesus and the apostle Paul.

Dissatisfied with your life? Yeah, most of us have been there. There’s no shame in wanting to be happy, but real satisfaction often eludes us. At best, what fleeting happiness we find tends to dribble away in never-ending debts, stressful deadlines, and mindless scrolling. At worst, it’s chased away by anxiety, depression, or fallout from our selfishness.

Here’s the truth: whether we hunt for happiness in parties, bars, the workplace hustle, or even in church pews, we’ll wind up shortchanged. Why? Because we don’t see our lives as beautiful.

But God wants something better for you—happiness so real this world might think it’s too good to be true.

In Crazy Happy, Daniel Fusco unpacks fresh connections in two of the Bible’s most familiar passages—secrets of happiness that can really, truly, honest-to-goodness change things. If you stick around for the ride, you’ll find the kind of God-given beauty that can change your life for good—even in our sometimes-crazy world.

Faith After Doubt: Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What to Do About It  by Brian D. McLaren

From the author of A New Kind of Christianity comes a bold proposal: only doubt can save the world and your faith.

Sixty-five million adults in the U.S. have dropped out of active church attendance and about 2.7 million more are leaving every year. Faith After Doubt is for the millions of people around the world who feel that their faith is falling apart.

Using his own story and the stories of a diverse group of struggling believers, Brian D. McLaren, a former pastor and now an author, speaker, and activist shows how old assumptions are being challenged in nearly every area of human life, not just theology and spirituality. He proposes a four-stage model of faith development in which questions and doubt are not the enemy of faith, but rather a portal to a more mature and fruitful kind of faith. The four stages—Simplicity, Complexity, Perplexity, and Harmony—offer a path forward that can help sincere and thoughtful people leave behind unnecessary baggage and intensify their commitment to what matters most.

Folkloric American Witchcraft and the Multicultural Experience: A Crucible at the Crossroads by Via Hedera

Witchcraft and magic in America is an inherently multicultural experience and the folklore of our ancestors from every country converges here at a crossroads. It’s a complicated history; one of uncertainty and fear, displacement and enslavement, merging and migration. Our ancestors may not have agreed on how they saw the world or the magic that inhabits the world, but they shared a very real fear of Witches. Hags, Devils, charms and spells; witchery is rooted in our deepest superstitions and folklore. The traditions of people and their cultures stretch and intersect across the country and this is where the unique traditions of American witchcraft and magic are born.

As practitioners seek to revive and reconstruct the paths of our ancestors, we’ve begun to trace the interconnected roots of witchcraft folklore as it emerged in the Americas, from the blending of people and their faiths. For multiracial practitioners, this is part of our identity as Americans and as witches of this country. Folkloric American Witchcraft and the Multicultural Experience is an exploration of the folklore, magic and witchcraft that was forged in the New World.

The Gravity of Joy: A Story of Being Lost and Found by Angela Williams Gorrell

“My vocation was supposed to be joy, and I was speaking at funerals.”

Shortly after being hired by Yale University to study joy, Angela Gorrell got word that a close family member had died by suicide. Less than a month later, she lost her father to a fatal opioid addiction and her nephew, only twenty-two years old, to sudden cardiac arrest. The theoretical joy she was researching at Yale suddenly felt shallow and distant—completely unattainable in the fog of grief she now found herself in.

But joy was closer at hand than it seemed. As she began volunteering at a women’s maximum-security prison, she met people who suffered extensively yet still showed a tremendous capacity for joy. Talking with these women, many of whom had struggled with addiction and suicidal thoughts themselves, she realized: “Joy doesn’t obliterate grief. . . . Instead, joy has a mysterious capacity to be felt alongside sorrow and even—sometimes most especially—in the midst of suffering.”

This is the story of Angela’s discovery of an authentic, grounded Christian joy. But even more, it is an invitation for others to seize upon this more resilient joy as a counteragent to the twenty-first-century epidemics of despair, addiction, and suicide—a call to action for communities that yearn to find joy and are willing to “walk together through the shadows” to find it.

The In-Between Place: Where Jesus Changes Your Story by Kat Armstrong

Jesus’ journey to the woman at the well in Samaria offers insights and hope for women today to make peace with the past, find hope in the present, and step into the future.

God wants us to move toward the goodness He has planned for us. But what do we do when challenges stop our forward momentum? What’s the next step when we fall into a pit of despair with the determination knocked right out of us?

On his way from Judea to Galilee, Jesus traveled through Samaria, a broken place everyone knew to avoid. In Samaria he stopped in Shechem, where evil had gained such a foothold of power that it eventually reigned. Yet the place once condemned as somewhere no one wanted to visit—let alone hang out in for a while—was the location of one Samaritan woman’s most hope-filled encounter with the Savior.

The In-Between Place offers deeply important insights to anyone who feels stuck and can’t see a way forward. It is for the person who feels that if she looks left, her face will be scraped by an immovable boulder, and if she looks right, she’ll see nothing but hard to handle. It’s for the person who feels lost and is not sure she is worth the effort to be found, for the person who feels overlooked and unfulfilled. Because sometimes Jesus saves our greatest spiritual breakthroughs for our in-between places.

Win the Day: 7 Daily Habits to Help You Stress Less & Accomplish More by Mark Batterson

The New York Times bestselling author of Chase the Lion reveals seven powerful habits that can help you tackle God-sized goals by turning yesterday’s regrets and tomorrow’s anxieties into fuel for a better today.

Too many people delay, downsize, or shrug off their dreams just because they don’t know where to start, but playing it safe doesn’t account for the massive cost of a life not fully lived. Win the Day is the jump-start you need to go after your goals, one day at a time. You’ll discover how to:

1. Flip the Script: If you want to change your life, start by changing your story.
2. Kiss the Wave: The obstacle is not the enemy; the obstacle is the way.
3. Eat the Frog: If you want God to do the super, you’ve got to do the natural.
4. Fly the Kite: How you do anything is how you’ll do everything.
5. Cut the Rope: Playing it safe is risky.
6. Wind the Clock: Time is measured in minutes; life is measured in moments.
7. Seed the Clouds: Sow today what you want to see tomorrow.

As Batterson unpacks each of these daily habits, you’ll see how simple it is to pursue them with focus and dedication—not someday down the road, but now. Transform your perspective of a single day and you’ll discover the potential waiting to be grasped at the beginning of each new sunrise.

New Religion Titles at Main

Looking for a new religious title to read? Here are some books that hit the shelves at our Main Downtown Branch in December, January, and February. If any of these titles interest you, you can use the links below to place a hold in our catalog, or you can always give us a call to put one on hold for you. The following descriptions were provided by the publisher.

Be the Refuge: Raising the Voices of Asian American Buddhists by Chenxing Han

A must-read for modern sanghas–Asian American Buddhists in their own words, on their own terms.

Despite the fact that two thirds of U.S. Buddhists identify as Asian American, mainstream perceptions about what it means to be Buddhist in America often whitewash and invisibilize the diverse, inclusive, and intersectional communities that lie at the heart of American Buddhism.

Be the Refuge is both critique and celebration, calling out the erasure of Asian American Buddhists while uplifting the complexity and nuance of their authentic stories and vital, thriving communities. Drawn from in-depth interviews with a pan-ethnic, pan-Buddhist group, Be the Refuge is the first book to center young Asian American Buddhists’ own voices. With insights from multi-generational, second-generation, convert, and socially engaged Asian American Buddhists, Be the Refuge includes the stories of trailblazers, bridge-builders, integrators, and refuge-makers who hail from a wide range of cultural and religious backgrounds.

Championing nuanced representation over stale stereotypes, Han and the 89 interviewees in Be the Refuge push back against false narratives like the Oriental monk, the superstitious immigrant, and the banana Buddhist–typecasting that collapses the multivocality of Asian American Buddhists into tired, essentialized tropes. Encouraging frank conversations about race, representation, and inclusivity among Buddhists of all backgrounds, Be the Refuge embodies the spirit of interconnection that glows at the heart of American Buddhism.

Black & Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us About Race, Resilience, Transformation & Freedom by Pamela Ayo Yetunde

Leading African American Buddhist teachers offer lessons on racism, resilience, spiritual freedom, and the possibility of a truly representative American Buddhism. With contributions by Acharya Gaylon Ferguson, Cheryl A. Giles, Gyōzan Royce Andrew Johnson, Ruth King, Kamilah Majied, Lama Rod Owens, Lama Dawa Tarchin Phillips, Sebene Selassie, and Pamela Ayo Yetunde.

What does it mean to be Black and Buddhist? In this powerful collection of writings, African American teachers from all the major Buddhist traditions tell their stories of how race and Buddhist practice have intersected in their lives. The resulting explorations display not only the promise of Buddhist teachings to empower those facing racial discrimination but also the way that Black Buddhist voices are enriching the Dharma for all practitioners. As the first anthology comprised solely of writings by African-descended Buddhist practitioners, this book is an important contribution to the development of the Dharma in the West.

The Great Belonging: How Loneliness Leads Us to Each Other by Charlotte Donlon

Loneliness has reached epidemic proportions, according to many sources. In an age of mobility and fraying civic life, we are all susceptible to its power. But what if loneliness is a necessary part of the human condition? What if it is a current that leads us deeper into belonging–to ourselves, to each other, and to God?

In The Great Belonging, writer and spiritual director Charlotte Donlon reframes loneliness and offers us a language for the disquiet within. Instead of turning away from the waters of loneliness for fear they will engulf us, she invites us to wade in and see what we find there. In vulnerable, thoughtful prose, Donlon helps us understand our own occasional or frequent loneliness and offers touchpoints for understanding alienation. We can live into the persistent questions of loneliness. We can notice God’s presence even when we feel alone in our doubts. Ultimately, Donlon claims, we can find connection that emerges from honesty, and she offers tools, resources, and practices for transforming loneliness into true belonging.

This Hallelujah Banquet: How the End of What We Were Reveals Who We Can Be by Eugene H. Peterson

In this powerful new interpretation of the Book of Revelation, the late, revered author and translator of The Message Bible shows us how to live with profound joy and faithfulness–even when it feels like the end of the world.

When John the Beloved Disciple penned the Book of Revelation, Christians lived in a time of oppression, violence, deception, and injustice. There were temptations from outside the church and divisions within. Some days, it felt like the end of the world.

Two millennia later, the characters are different, but the story’s the same. The life of faith is anything but easy. So how can we learn to live with truth and power when challenges seem to be everywhere?

Through the dramatic symbolism of John’s Letters to the Seven Churches, Eugene Peterson encourages us to see ourselves in these ancient communities as they are examined by the Risen Christ. As we do, we’re forced to ask: What if the troubles that face us were intended to test our faith? What if the secret to deeper satisfaction in Jesus did not mean avoiding pain and trial, but living faithfully through it?

In this powerful, never-before-published work, we are given a new and timely message from one of our most iconic Christian voices. Our anxious longings for peace and joy will be met as we learn to live with overcoming faith, even in the most turbulent times.

My Heart Sutra: A World in 260 Characters by Frederik Schodt 

A cultural and personal journey into the famous sutra that teaches “form is emptiness; and emptiness is form.”

The Heart Sutra is the most widely read, chanted, and copied text in East Asian Buddhism. Here Frederik L. Schodt explores his lifelong fascination with the sutra: its mesmerizing mantra, its ancient history, the “emptiness theory, and the way it is used around the world as a metaphysical tool to overcome chaos and confusion and reach a new understanding of reality–a perfection of wisdom. Schodt’s journey takes him to caves in China, American beats declaiming poetry, speculations into the sutra’s true origins, and even a robot Avalokitesvara at a Kyoto temple.

The Second Happy: Seven Practices to Make Your Marriage Better than Your Honeymoon by Kevin Myers

What is the secret to a healthy, happy, fulfilling marriage?

Nearly every marriage starts out happy, and if we’re honest, nearly every marriage at some point becomes unhappy. Is there a solution? Can an unhappy marriage really get back to being happy? Can it be truly and authentically happy–even better than it was at first? Kevin and Marcia Myers, married for thirty-seven years through nearly every challenge a couple can face, emphatically say yes.

Revealing seven practices that offer help and hope for a happy and enduring marriage, The Second Happy is a captivating, practical resource that provides the tools necessary to tune-up, overhaul, or even rebuild your marriage. Practices to sustain and strengthen marriage include the following:

  • breaking the quit cycle;
  • picking a fair fight so both people win;
  • keeping disagreements from escalating; and 
  • removing pretense from your relationship.

Rooted in Scripture and contemporary insights from the Myers’ marriage, as well as real stories from other couples, this revelatory book shows how any marriage can regain depth, meaning and, yes, happiness.

New Religion Titles at Fairmount

Looking for a new religious title to read? Here are some books that hit the shelves at our Fairmount Branch in January, February, and March. If any of these titles interest you, you can use the links below to place a hold in our catalog, or you can always give us a call to put one on hold for you. The following descriptions were provided by the publisher.

The Night Lake: A Young Priest Maps the Topography of Grief by Liz Tichenor

Called “such a sad, tough story, but finally so life-affirming, filled with spirit and love” by Anne Lamott, this is a raw and intensely affecting memoir by a young priest about loss of a child, its grief and its aftermath, and the hard-won joy that can follow.

Liz Tichenor has taken her newborn son, five weeks old, to the doctor, from a cabin on the shores of Lake Tahoe. She is sent home to her husband and two-year-old daughter with the baby, who is pronounced “fine” by an urgent care physician. Six hours later, the baby dies in their bed. Less than a year and a half before, Tichenor’s mother jumped from a building and killed herself after a long struggle with alcoholism. As a very young Episcopal priest, Tichenor has to “preach the Good News,” to find faith where there is no hope, but she realizes these terrible parts of her own life will join her in the pulpit.

The Night Lake is the story of finding a way forward through tragedies that seem like they might be beyond surviving and of learning to carve out space for the slow labor of learning to live again, in grief.

They Turned the World Upside Down: A Storyteller’s Journey with Those Who Dared to Follow Jesus by Charles Martin

Walk in the shoes of the disciples, as New York Times bestselling author Charles Martin brings their stories to life with his storyteller’s perspective. 

In the first century, believer didn’t just mean someone who heard and agreed with Jesus; it meant someone who acted on that belief. And when the outside world saw the faith of these new believers, they declared “they turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).

That’s the kind of believer Charles Martin wants us to be. The kind who understands that the truth of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is so powerful, it reshaped history. The kind of believer who lives with that same world-changing faith today. 

In his second non-fiction work, he uses his talents as a novelist to walk you through the lives of the disciples in the aftermath of the Resurrection and as they spread the message of the Gospel and “turn the world upside down”, leading up to Paul’s ministry in Thessonalica. In his beloved lyrical style, Martin illuminates key moments from Scripture and shares stories from his own life as a disciple.

With the same depth, sensitivity, and emotion that have made his novels beloved to millions, Martin will helps you engage with your faith in a new and inspiring way.

A Rhythm of Prayer: A Collection of Meditations for Renewal by Sarah Bessey

For the weary, the angry, the anxious, and the hopeful, this collection of moving, tender prayers offers rest, joyful resistance, and a call to act, written by Barbara Brown Taylor, Amena Brown, Nadia Bolz-Weber, and other artists and thinkers, curated by the author Glennon Doyle calls “my favorite faith writer.”

It’s no secret that we are overworked, overpressured, and edging burnout. Unsurprisingly, this fact is as old as time—and that’s why we see so many prayer circles within a multitude of church traditions. These gatherings are a trusted space where people seek help, hope, and peace, energized by God and one another. This book, curated by acclaimed author Sarah Bessey, celebrates and honors that prayerful tradition in a literary form. A companion for all who feel the immense joys and challenges of the journey of faith, this collection of prayers says it all aloud, giving readers permission to recognize the weight of all they carry. These writings also offer a broadened imagination of hope—of what can be restored and made new. Each prayer is an original piece of writing, with new essays by Sarah Bessey throughout.

Encompassing the full breadth of the emotional landscape, these deeply tender yet subversive prayers give readers an intimate look at the diverse language and shapes of prayer.

Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone by James Martin

One of America’s most beloved spiritual leaders and the New York Times bestselling author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything and Jesus: A Pilgrimage teaches anyone to converse with God in this comprehensive guide to prayer.

In The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, Father James Martin included a chapter on communicating with God. Now, he expands those thoughts in this profound and practical handbook. Learning to Pray explains what prayer is, what to expect from praying, how to do it, and how it can transform us when we make it a regular practice in our lives.

A trusted guide walking beside us as we navigate our unique spiritual paths, Martin lays out the different styles and traditions of prayer throughout Christian history and invites us to experiment and discover which works best to feed our soul and build intimacy with our Creator. Father Martin makes clear there is not one secret formula for praying. But like any relationship, each person can discover the best style for building an intimate relationship with God, regardless of religion or denomination. Prayer, he teaches us, is open and accessible to anyone willing to open their heart.

The Black Church: This is Our Story, This is Our Song by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

From the New York Times-bestselling author of Stony the Road and one of our most important voices on the African-American experience, a powerful new history of the Black church in America as the Black community’s abiding rock and its fortress.

For the young Henry Louis Gates, Jr., growing up in a small, segregated West Virginia town, the church was his family and his community’s true center of gravity. Within those walls, voices were lifted up in song to call forth the best in each other, and to comfort each other when times were at their worst. In this book, his tender and magisterial reckoning with the meaning of the Black church in American history, Gates takes us from his own experience onto a journey across more than four hundred years and spanning the entire country. At road’s end, we emerge with a new understanding of the centrality of the Black church to the American story–as a cultural and political force, as the center of resistance to slavery and white supremacy, as an unparalleled incubator of talent, and as a crucible for working through the community’s most important issues, down to today.

In a country that has historically afforded its citizens from the African diaspora tragically few safe spaces, the Black church has always been more than a sanctuary; it’s been a place to nourish the deepest human needs and dreams of the African-American community. This fact was never lost on white supremacists: from the earliest days of slavery, when enslaved people were allowed to worship at all, their meeting houses were subject to surveillance, and often destruction. So it continued, long after slavery’s formal eradication; church burnings and church bombings by the Ku Klux Klan and others have always been a hallmark of the violent effort to suppress the struggle for equality for the African-American community. The past often isn’t even past–Dylann Roof committed his slaughter in Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church 193 years after the church was first burned down by whites following a thwarted slave rebellion.

But as Gates brilliantly shows, the Black church has never been only one thing. Its story lies at the vital center of the civil rights movement, and produced many of its leaders, from the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. on, but at the same time there have always been churches and sects that eschewed a more activist stance, even eschewed worldly political engagement altogether. That tension can be felt all the way to the Black Lives Matter movement and the work of today. Still and all, as a source of strength and a force for change, the Black church is at the center of the action at every stage of the American story, as this enthralling history makes vividly clear.

Hope in Times of Fear: The Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter by Timothy Keller

The Resurrection accounts of Jesus in the Gospels are the most dramatic and impactful stories ever told. One similarity unites each testimony–that none of his most loyal and steadfast followers could “see” it was him, back from the dead. The reason for this is at the very foundation of the Christian faith.

She turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. (John 20:14)

Hope in the Time of Fear is a book that unlocks the meaning of Jesus’s resurrection for readers. Easter is considered the most solemn and important holiday for Christians. It is a time of spiritual rebirth and a time of celebrating the physical rebirth of Jesus after three days in the tomb. For his devoted followers, nothing could prepare them for the moment they met the resurrected Jesus. Each failed to recognize him. All of them physically saw him and yet did not spiritually truly see him. It was only when Jesus reached out and invited them to see who he truly was that their eyes were open. Here the central message of the Christian faith is revealed in a way only Timothy Keller could do it–filled with unshakable belief, piercing insight, and a profound new way to look at a story you think you know. After reading this book, the true meaning of Easter will no longer be unseen.

Things Worth Dying For: Thoughts on a Life Worth Living by Charles J. Chaput

With a balance of wisdom, candor, and scholarly rigor the beloved archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia takes on life’s central questions: why are we here, and how can we live and die meaningfully?

In Things Worth Dying For, Chaput delves richly into our yearning for God, love, honor, beauty, truth, and immortality. He reflects on our modern appetite for consumption and individualism and offers a penetrating analysis of how we got here, and how we can look to our roots and our faith to find purpose each day amid the noise of competing desires. Chaput examines the chronic questions of the human heart; the idols and false flags we create; and the nature of a life of authentic faith. He points to our longing to live and die with meaning as the key to our search for God, our loyalty to nation and kin, our conduct in war, and our service to others.

Ultimately, with compelling grace, he shows us that the things worth dying for reveal most powerfully the things worth living for.

Beauty in the Browns: Walking with Christ in the Darkness of Depression by Paul Asay

You can find beauty in life, even when your world is painted in bleak shades of brown.

Let’s face it, no one wants to be depressed. So if we’re prone to this disquieting malady, we try to hide it, to fake the smile that isn’t really there—especially if we’re Christians. Author Paul Asay knows all about that. He knows the ins and outs of depression from personal experience, and he wants to help you work your way out.

But don’t worry, this isn’t some simplistic how-to book, promising rainbows and unicorns in three easy steps. Paul knows “fixing” depression isn’t that easy. He gets the complexity of the darkness—but he also knows you can’t stay there. And he can’t stay there, either. In Beauty in the Browns, he’ll share what he’s learned about how to live with hope, with Christ—and not let the darkness win.

This book will make you laugh (really!), and it will make you cry in that good way when something touches you deep inside. Most of all, it will give you the hope and the certainty that you can go on, you can find life again—with the Lord by your side.

Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

I had not heard anything about this book before I checked it out on OverDrive, but the plot appealed to me right from the beginning as it’s a twisty thriller with a noir feel. Mysteries abound in Lippman’s newest book as a housewife decides to upend her entire life in order to make a new name for herself.

Lady in the Lake  by Laura Lippman is a psychological thriller mixed with elements of classic crime noir set in 1960s Baltimore. Madeline ‘Maddie’ Schwartz is a housewife, happy with her pampered easy life. Well, she was satisfied with that life up until this year when she decided to leave her eighteen year marriage to start over and live a passionate life that was more meaningful.

Starting a new life, Maddie wants to make a difference. After learning of a young girl’s disappearance, she decides to help police look for the girl. Using those interactions as a step-up, Maddie works her way onto the staff of the city’s newspaper, the Star. Trying to make a name for herself, Maddie is on the lookout for a story that will help her rise to fame. She finds the story of a missing woman whose body was found in the fountain of the park lake and decides to investigate.

A young African-American woman who enjoyed a good time, Cleo Sherwood disappeared one night. No one seems concerned with how the woman ended up there, so Maddie begins to dig into her disappearance. Cleo’s ghost is not happy with Maddie poking around into her life and death. She just wants to be left alone.

This book changes perspectives between many different characters as readers learn about the characters on the periphery of Maddie’s life. As she looks into Cleo’s murder, Maddie investigates a wide number of people, but fails to truly see what lies right in front of her. Her inability to see this leads to dangerous consequences for herself, those closest to her, and the people she comes into contact with on a daily basis.

If you have the chance, I highly recommend that you listen to the audiobook version of this book. Since this book jumps around to multiple points of view, the narrator is able to add different accents, dialogue, and authentic speech to each character. This definitely made the listen more than worthwhile and helped me keep the multitude of characters separate in my head.

Lippmann based the crimes that occur in this book on two real-life disappearances. If you’re interested in learning more, Lippman did an interview on NPR’s All Things Considered that covers her inspiration.


This book is available in the following formats:

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check In

Hello!

How is your reading going this month? Have you found something great to read? If you’re still looking, you might want to consider a movie instead. Here are a few ideas.

Ben-Hur starring Charleston Huston set in ancient Rome at the birth of Christianity.

Schindler’s List with Liam Neeson tells the inspiring and heartbreaking story of what one person can do against unfathomable evil.

The Da Vinci Code starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou. Enjoy a lovely if fantastical scavenger hunt through some beautiful churches and archives.

The Handmaid’s Tale with Elisabeth Moss. A chilling look at a future ruled by a religion-based autocracy.

9/11 starring Charlie Sheen and The Looming Tower with Jeff Daniels, both of which examine the consequences of religious fanaticism and the attack on the United States.

Online Reading Challenge -March

Hello Challenge Readers!

It’s a new month and that means it’s a new theme for the Online Reading Challenge! Will the excitement ever end?

This month our theme is Religion.  Religion can be controversial, but it can also be fascinating. Religion has shaped cultures, history, art and philosophy. Religion influences all of our lives, whether we’re a devoted practitioner or not. You might take this month to read a book that describes a religion you’re unfamiliar with, or a historical perspective of one you are familiar with. Or read something fun and cozy – the choice is yours! You don’t have to choose a book that is strictly about religion (although you can if you want) but look for something where religion informs the story.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

One of my all-time favorite books is The Chosen by Chaim Potok. I grew up in a small, rural Iowa town where 90% of the population was Protestant. Even Catholics were “exotic” to my childish mind and Jewish people simply unknown. The Chosen opened my eyes and my imagination, not just to different religions (both Orthodox Hasidic and Modern Orthodox Jews are part of the story), but to a different world – 1940s Brooklyn, intellectual curiosity and dedicated faith. Beautifully written, this now classic story of two boys and their fathers is a don’t miss. Its universal themes of family, faith, love and loyalty will resonate with everyone.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver follows the harrowing story of an over-enthusiastic Evangelical Baptist missionary and his quest to convert (“save” in his opinion) the native people of Belgian Congo in 1959. Told from the point-of-view of his wife and four daughters, this polarizing book will cause you to question many entrenched beliefs. The storyline is gripping, bittersweet and can’t-put-down.

I thoroughly enjoyed Charles Lovett’s The Lost Book of the Grail, about a couple’s search for a lost treasure. The book juxtaposes the timelines of what actually happened at the English abbey to what Arthur and Bethany are discovering in the present. For fans of The DaVinci Code (which would also qualify for this month’s reading challenge) but with much less torture and bloodshed.

There are several classics worth picking up now if you haven’t yet such as Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin and The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.

Prefer something light? Try the Mitford series by Jan Karon about a pastor in an idyllic country town. Other modern favorites include The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving or Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat.

Be sure to check out the book displays at each Davenport library building for lots more suggestions.

I’m planning to read A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell which is about a family of Jews escaping over the Alps to Italy in 1943. It promises to be a multi-faceted look at the Italian front during World War II.

Now it’s your turn – what will you be reading this March?

 

 

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

 American Gods by Neil Gaiman is a twisted fantasy tale of gods come to life in modern-day America. There is a battle soon to rage between the ancient gods and the gods of today. The historic gods of European tales were brought to North America and other countries around the world in the minds of the people who believed in them. They grew stronger in those new places every time someone talked about them or thought of them. The old gods are coming up against a struggle now. The new gods (gods of media, television, Internet, etc) feel like the old gods have reached their limit. The old gods feel like they’re being usurped by gods that will vanish from the public’s minds in a few years, an idea that infuriates them. Spiritual warfare runs rampant through this book as readers discover that gods walk among us, hidden as humans or animals. These ancient divinities may struggle against the new trends and fads, but their struggle for survival is necessary in this new supernatural climate.

Thrown into this conflict, our antihero rises. He is a convict named Shadow, a man who has feelings that the world is going change drastically. Through Shadow, readers witness the behind-the-scenes relationship between the gods and humans. Humans and their faith play a very large part in this book with Shadow and the gods constantly struggling in this massive religious upheaval. Shadow soon finds himself thrust into the middle of this skirmish between the ancients: Odin, Anansi, Those, Loki One-Eye, etc, and the contemporary deities: geek-boy god Internet, the goddess Media, etc. It’s a fascinating journey as Shadow takes a job as a kind of bodyguard for Mr. Wednesday, a human representation of the Norse god Grimnir, as they travel across the country trying to recruit more gods to actively fight on their side. The magical and the mundane are, for the most part, evenly balanced throughout this book, a fact that I greatly appreciated since it helped me better understand what was happening.

I listened to this book through OverDrive and greatly enjoyed it because the author actually read the prologue! Getting to hear authors speak is one of my favorite things because you really get to hear their viewpoint and how their cadence influences the writing of the book. His discussion of the creation of this book was also invaluable knowledge. I greatly enjoyed this book.


This book is also available in the following formats:

New Religion & Spirituality in October

Featured new additions to DPL’s Religion & Spirituality collections! Click on the title to place a hold. For more new books, visit our Upcoming Releases page. As always, if there’s a title you would like to read, please send us a purchase suggestion.

51w5mgcl1slA Second Wind: Time to Own Your Future by T.D. Jakes – While focusing on his core mission to preach the gospel worldwide, T.D. Jakes has seen many good people not spend enough quality time with family, friends, and God. They have gotten so swept up in the daily grind that they have failed to live the rich life that God desires for each of His people.  In his new book, Jakes provides readers with strategies that will help them rejuvenate their life and turn their “busyness” into a “business.”

 

 

41h3k7jitxl__sy344_bo1204203200_The Broken Way: A Daring Path Into the Abundant Life by Ann Voskamp New York Times best-selling author Ann Voskamp sits at the edge of her life and all of her own unspoken brokenness and asks: What if you really want to live abundantly before it’s too late? What do you do if you really want to know abundant wholeness? This is the one begging question that’s behind every single aspect of our lives – and one that The Broken Way rises up to explore in the most unexpected ways.

 

 

51n4vwbnnl__sy344_bo1204203200_What Pope Francis Really Said: Words of Comfort and Challenge by Tom Hoopes – His likeable, spontaneous, unguarded manner has drawn both estranged Catholics and even non-Catholics to take a closer look at the Catholic Church. He has also puzzled and even outraged the faithful who listened uncritically to the media’s interpretation of Pope Francis’s off-the-cuff commentary on hot-button issues such as abortion, marriage, divorce, the environment, immigration, and a host of other issues.  Nationally respected Catholic journalist Tom Hoopes explores how Pope Francis is bringing the Catholic Church to bear on a dramatically changing world, not by altering its teachings but by applying enduring truths to new realities in fresh ways.

 

51psqpts6wlThe Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron –  Ignorance is bliss–except in self-awareness. What you don’t know about yourself can hurt you and your relationships–and maybe even how you make your way in the world. In The Road Back to You Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile forge a unique approach – a practical, comprehensive way of accessing Enneagram wisdom and exploring its connections with Christian spirituality for a deeper knowledge of God and of ourselves. Witty and filled with stories, this book allows you to understand more about each of the Enneagram types, keeping you turning the pages long after you have read the chapter about yourself. Beginning with changes you can start making today, the wisdom of the Enneagram can help you get on the road that will take you further along into who you really are–leading you into places of spiritual discovery you would never have found on your own, and paving the way to the wiser, more compassionate person you want to become.

k10820Village Atheists: How America’s Unbelievers Made Their Way in a Godly Nation by Eric Leigh Schmidt – A much-maligned minority throughout American history, atheists have been cast as a threat to the nation’s moral fabric, barred from holding public office, and branded as irreligious misfits in a nation chosen by God. Yet, village atheists–as these godless freethinkers came to be known by the close of the nineteenth century–were also hailed for their gutsy dissent from stultifying pieties and for posing a necessary secularist challenge to majoritarian entanglements of church and state. Village Atheists explores the complex cultural terrain that unbelievers have long had to navigate in their fight to secure equal rights and liberties in American public life

9780802414502Keeping Love Alive As Memories Fade: The 5 Love Languages and the Alzheimer’s Journey by Gary D. Chapman – Across America and around the world, the five love languages have revitalized relationships and saved marriages from the brink of disaster. Can they also help individuals, couples, and families cope with the devastating diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease? Coauthors Chapman, Shaw, and Barr give a resounding yes. Their innovative application of the five love languages creates an entirely new way to touch the lives of the five million Americans who have Alzheimer’s, as well as their fifteen million caregivers. At its heart, this book is about how love gently lifts a corner of dementia’s dark curtain to cultivate an emotional connection amid memory loss.